SETH MCDOWELL

Assistant Professor, Architecture

Education: Columbia University, Master in Architecture; Clemson University, Bachelor of Science in Design


Seth McDowell works in the field of design research as a practitioner-researcher exploring the relationship between materiality, visualization and construction.  As an experimental architect, his work bridges the speculative and the real—focusing on material and construction procedures as the genesis for

the design of buildings, objects and cities.  His work concentrates on three interrelated areas of study:

1—Design strategies for waste, excess, and ubiquity

2—Material speculations as cultural critique

3—Designing with Building Information Modeling (BIM)

McDowell’s teaching is focused on materiality, construction systems and digital visualization/simulation.  Core teaching assignments include courses in Building Information Modeling (BIM) ARCH 7270/ARCH 3271/ARCH 5500, Building Matters ARCH 3260, and undergraduate and graduate level design studios. McDowell has over eight years of experience teaching design studios and technical courses at three US institutions: University of Virginia (UVA), Columbia University, and Louisiana State University.  He has taught at UVA School of Architecture since 2012. 


Seth McDowell has been recognized nationally and internationally for contributions both as a designer and a writer.   As a designer he — within his innovative architecture practice mcdowellespinosa— has won major national and international design competitions and awards that include the 2015 NY Architectural League Prize for a design portfolio that exemplifies conditions of “Authenticity” in architecture, winning entry for The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s  2015 ChiDesign Competition, first place entry in the 2010 Self-Sufficient City Competition sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, finalist in  MoMA’s PS1 2013 Young Architects Program (TempAgency), and winner of the 2015 AIA/DC Unbuilt Award for Excellence. 

McDowell’s writing on material and object re-contextualization in art and architecture has been published in STUDIO Architecture and Urbanism Magazine, Pataphysics Then & Now (forthcoming), New Architecture Assembly Magazine, ArchDaily, and presented at various national conferences.   His letter for the book competition Dear Architecture was awarded honorable mention and is published in the book.  McDowell is editor of the book Water Index: Design Strategies for Drought, Flooding and Contamination, an ACTAR / UVA publication, to be released in the Fall of 2016.

McDowell has served as guest critic on design juries throughout the US.  He also serves on the Scottville, Virginia Architectural Review Board. 


“Breaking BIM: A Transformative Design Methodology for BIM” selected paper in the proceedings of The ACSA 106th Annual Meeting: The Ethical Imperative. 2018.

Water Index: Design Strategies for Drought, Flooding and Contamination, Editor. Actar; Barcelona, 2017.

“mcdowellespinosa,” Authenticity, The 2015 Architecture League Prize. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2016. p.100-125.

Objects. The Secret Life of Buildings at the University of Texas, Austin. October-December 2016. Selected Work: The Vessel.

“Dear Architecture,” honorable mention essay published in Dear Architecture. Blank Space Publishing, New York. 2015.

“City of Blubber,” essay published in STUDIO Architecture and Urbanism Magazine Issue #9, Milan, Italy, 2015.

“Concerning an Unfindable Architecture,” essay published in Pataphysics Then & Now, edited by Michael R. Taylor and Katie L. Price, Penn State University Press. (accepted, Book Forthcoming)

Authenticity: The Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design at the New School, June-August 2015.

“Towards an Unfindable Architecture: a ludic theory of ‘pataphysics and architecture” selected paper in the proceedings of ACSA Annual Meeting 103: The Expanding Periphery and the Migrating Center, 2015.

Beyond the Urban Edge: ‘The Ideal City’ curated by Prof. Colin Fournier at the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture - Hong Kong. Dec-Jan 2014. Selected Work: City of Blubber

“Upcycled Modernity: Remaking Modernism’s Icons with Waste,” selected paper in the proceedings of Reclaim and Remake Symposium. Catholic University of America School of Architecture. 2013.

“Water Fuel: The Plan for a Self-Sustaining New York,” Self Sufficient City: Envisioning the Habitat of the Future: 3rd Advanced Architecture Contest. Cappelli, Lucas and Vicente Guallart ed. Barcelona: Actar, 2011.

  • The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design, Young Architect of the Year, 2017.
  • Second Place - Structure of Freedom International Competition for the Sziget Festival Pavilion, 2017.
  • Honorable Mention - “Adaptive Platform: Affordable Housing above the City” NY Build’s Affordable Housing Challenge, 2017.
  • Winner of AIA|DC Unbuilt Awards in 2015 and 2017.
  • Winner - “Layered Intelligence” CHIDesign Competition, The Chicago Architecture Foundation, 2015.
  • The Architectural League of New York Prize, 2015.
  • Finalist - MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, 2012.
  • First Place - 3rd Advanced Architecture Contest: The Self-Sufficient City, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, 2009.